Embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya on Saturday became the first person to be declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’ under the Fugitive Economic Offenders’ Act, 2018 by a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Court in Mumbai. The court will hear the arguments on the confiscation of Mallya’s properties on February 5.
Special judge MS Azmi declared Mallya an offender under Section 12 of the Act after hearing extensive arguments from the lawyer of Mallya and the ED counsel.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed an application before the court in November, requesting to declare Mallya, who is facing charges of financial irregularities, a fugitive under the Act. “It is only to aid the agency to bring somebody back to the country to face the law here,” the ED counsel had said.
Mallya through his lawyers had told the court that he had not fled the country but had left to attend a meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland on March 4, 2016, at the World Motor Sport Council. He added that he had attended the meeting as part of the ‘ordinary course’ of his business activities, stating that the warrant in the criminal offence against him was only issued subsequently.
Under the provisions of the Act, a Fugitive Economic Offender is a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued in respect of a scheduled offence and who has left India so as to avoid criminal prosecution, or being abroad, refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution. Once the person is declared a fugitive economic offender, the prosecuting agency has the powers to confiscate his properties.
The fugitive tycoon was arrested in the UK last year and immediately granted bail. The Westminster’s court in the United Kingdom last month said Mallya can be extradited to India to face fraud investigations. He is wanted in India for defaulting on Rs. 9,000 crore in loans to his failed Kingfisher Airlines.
Last year in December, Mallya had moved the Supreme Court, challenging the proceedings in the Mumbai court to declare him an offender. Prior to that, his counsel had argued that he cannot be declared one as he was arrested in the United Kingdom and was facing an extradition trial there.
In November, the Bombay High Court had refused to stay the hearing in ED’s petition to declare Mallya a fugitive economic offender. Mallya had approached the high court after the trial court refused to grant him a stay until a hearing on the attachment of his property is over before an appellate tribunal in Delhi.
Feather in govt’s cap in fight against corruption: BJP
Welcoming the Mumbai court’s verdict, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said the law was introduced by the present NDA government to ensure that absconders are brought to justice. “Mallya grew under the patronage of the Congress government. Despite him being bankrupt, he was given loans and his loans were even restructured. He fled with Rs 9,000 crore of the country’s money. It is a feather in the cap for BJP’s fight against corruption,” he said.
(With ENS inputs)